Building back better: Norfolk and Suffolk are at the ‘epicentre’ of the world’s largest market for offshore wind energy
PUBLISHED: 16:54 30 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:25 04 August 2020
In the first of our series showcasing career opportunities in Norfolk and Suffolk, we look at how offshore wind energy is growing across the region and what opportunities there might be for someone considering a career in the sector.
Norfolk and Suffolk are at the epicentre of the world’s largest market for offshore wind energy, worth almost £1bn a year. The counties have the potential to benefit more than any other area from growth in offshore wind jobs, with 6,150 more full time well-paid skilled jobs to be created by 2032.
Working offshore or in coastal businesses are one just aspect of this fast-expanding sector. There are many other skilled roles in businesses across the Norfolk and Suffolk chain providing services and expertise.
WHERE ARE THE CURRENT OPPORTUNITIES?
Offshore wind is a young pioneering sector that needs a diverse, inclusive and highly engaged workforce. Innovation and new technology drive the exciting accelerating industry in the UK and across the world, but recruiting enough people to keep up with development will be a real challenge.
Turbines out at sea need skilled engineers and technicians to install and maintain their blades, towers and generators but thousands more people are needed in skilled disciplines including IT, health and safety, sub-sea cables, data analytics, artificial intelligence and robots, finance, project management, human resources and commmunications.
The Offshore Wind Sector Deal sets a target to double the proportion of women in the industry to one-third by 2030 and increase black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation by 12pc.
Swedish energy group Vattenfall is working with schools to capture children’s interest at primary age, encouraging them to choose STEM subjects so many career routes in the industry will be accessible to them.
The company, whose mission is fossil-free fuel living in a generation, is planning two of the world’s largest wind farms off the Norfolk coast, Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas.
WHAT ARE THE ROUTES INTO THE SECTOR?
The offshore wind energy sector has a target to recruit 3,000 new apprentices over the next 10 years, but that’s not the only way to get into the sector. It is also on the look out for new talent from university graduates, career changes and those leaving the Armed Forces.
Vattenfall is working with East Coast College about development courses at its new £11.6m Energy Skills Centre, and it also operates the East of England Offshore Wind Skills Centre.
Many businesses in the supply chain operate work experience opportunities, which could help you to identify which areas of the business you might be interested in.
Angus Binnian is Vattenfall’s ‘Year in Industry’ student. He’s currently studying for his BSc in Energy Engineering at UEA in Norwich.
Angus believed his ‘sandwich year’ at Swedish energy group Vattenfall’s London offices between his second and fourth year at university would be spent supporting project teams.
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But the real experience exceeded all his expectations – within weeks, he was taking responsibility for his own projects and working with teams on Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas, the huge offshore wind farms Vattenfall is planning off the Norfolk coast.
He also travelled to Vattenfall’s major offices in Amsterdam and Hamburg where he was immediately treated like any other employee.
“I have been given the chance to work on development projects with new and emerging technologies in the renewables industry.
“Being part of that early development has given me a great sense of purpose – I feel like I am working at the forefront of energy innovation and actively contributing to tackling the climate crisis.”
Angus is Vattenfall’s first ‘Year in Industry’ student, spending his third of four years at UEA in an industry setting. The placement is part of the programme, Select, where employers looking for graduates to employ, or for summer internships or placements, are linked with the university to make students more aware of opportunities.
Vattenfall’s local liaison officer and skills champion, Sue Falch-Lovesey, arranged for Angus to shadow Graham Davey, project manager for the 1.8GW Norfolk Boreas.
“I never felt like a student here,” said Angus. “I have always felt like part of the team. It’s Vattenfall’s culture. The year provides students with the opportunity to apply knowledge previously learned in an academic setting in a real workplace. And it’s an opportunity for new learning too.
“I find it really inspiring that everyone within the company shares the passion to make a difference through their work. It’s a shared direction which has made the experience of working here feel so inclusive and purposeful.”
Angus comes from Kent but during his time with Vattenfall, he returned to Norwich to support the company, along with students from the University Technical College Norfolk, to engage with young people about offshore wind and renewable energy at last year’s Norwich Science Festival.
Angus will return to the UEA in September for his final year with new direction.
“This year has helped to define how I might approach my dissertation, ideas for further studies and where I eventually want to be in my future career,” he said. “I have also learned many important life and workplace skills alongside the development of my technical knowledge.
“The biggest learning opportunity has probably been gaining an appreciation of the impact of collaboration.
“Working on these massive projects has taught me how tasks can be completed and problems can be solved much more effectively by collaborating with other people; sharing knowledge, storing that knowledge effectively, and recording the steps taken in decision-making.”
FIND OUT MORE
To find out more about careers in Norfolk and Suffolk, check out our Building Back Better supplement.
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